“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
Running and Drinking
“I just polished off over 100 ounces of liquids. That’s the equivalent of eight cans of Coke in a morning. It’s not even noon yet, and I’m still thirsty!”
I was training for a full marathon – 26.2 miles. I planned one long run per week throughout the summer, and that meant getting out of bed before the sun came up to run 18 miles in the “cool” of the day. It was still hot and humid. I drank quite a bit of coffee and water before I left. I strapped bottles of sport drink and saltwater around my waist. The previous day I had dropped off four bottles of drinks at a friend’s place at the halfway point of my run.
As the sun crept up and the heat increased, I longed to drink and drink. But I had to measure it out so I would have enough throughout my run.
What made me so thirsty? Running 18 miles in heat. I’ve read that the body sweats 27 to 47 ounces per hour while running. Running in the heat for over two hours would amount to well over 100 ounces of sweat. It was hot out there! I could taste salty sweat on my lips and it burned as it dripped in my eyes. That’s why I replenished with liquid fortified with salt and minerals. I could hardly get enough drink.
Are you thirsty? For what are you thirsty? My thirst for liquids was finally satisfied by the end of the day.
In recent days in a South American country, food has been so scarce that most people wonder when they will eat next. My friends there tell me that one often stands in long lines in front of local markets to get a chance to buy something. By the time many get into the store, the shelves are basically empty.
When asked what I could bring to the seminary where I would teach for a week, the answer was “bring rice.” So I packed two suitcases full of rice – and a few clothes.
One of my dentist’s assistants, who is from this country, begged me to take toothpaste. She said her sister would rather receive toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo instead of an iPhone. I packed and handed out 50 donated tubes of sample-size toothpaste. It was like Christmas morning when I presented these small gifts. They actually cheered.
One person shared with me, “Just yesterday I was crying out, ‘God, you are God of all. You can do the impossible. I pray, in the name of Jesus, that you somehow send us toothpaste.’ And now, today,” she said with tears of joy, “we have toothpaste in our hands! God is so good.”
They desperately pray for their daily bread, and He answers.
But, for the seminarians, these stories are not about hunger for rice and need for toothpaste. It’s really about a spiritual hunger and thirst after the things of God. Their desperate physical hunger has triggered deep spiritual hunger. Their spiritual hunger found spiritual fruit. Those I met didn’t make their appeal to the stores and empty warehouses, but to God Himself.
Our seminary classes that week started with praise and worship. The men and women were so very glad to be there … to be filled. They were so very hungry for the teaching of the Word. Spontaneous prayers, confession, songs, and passionate hearts full of praise filled the week of classes. Many stood with arms in the air; others knelt in worship and praise. Eyes were filled with tears of joy and gratitude while praying for food every day. These hungry people were being filled with the things of the Spirit. He had so much more for them than food and drink.
Hunger and Thirst
I’m still running even though my marathon is over. I’m not as thirsty for bottles of drink like I was. What do I really long for? I think we all long for something outside ourselves to satisfy our empty and dry places in our inner selves.
“Jerry, there’s one thing I like about you,” one of my mentors once said. We all like to be affirmed. I waited for a few long seconds anticipating the answer.
Oh, that was it? The one thing he likes about me is that I’m hungry? What does that mean? Was this a compliment or what?
Hunger describes a deep desire for something, a longing for more. Some say each one of us has a God-shaped vacuum that only He can fill. Thirst describes a longing for refreshment like one would experience in a desert where water is scarce.
“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
Those who have been on safari know that the best way to view animals is to wait by sources of water at the beginning and end of the day. Wildlife will daily journey to a familiar source of water, so the psalmist says, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (Psalm 42:1).
Jesus knew these psalms. He probably memorized them as a young man and sang these Psalms in the synagogue. They provided him with background for the Beatitudes we read in Matthew 5. I can picture Jesus saying to the crowd, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst…” with the psalm/song going through His head, “As the deer pants for streams of water….”
Our biggest loss in life could be settling for just enough to “take the edge off” of our hunger and thirst with food and drink that will never fill or satisfy us.
The Stuff of Righteousness
As I approach my 60th birthday, I continue to learn that only God can fill that God-shaped vacuum in me. I am designed to be filled from the Source with long-lasting fruit of the Spirit. Other stuff just doesn’t do it for me, like:
- the perfect life that advertisers say I’m missing out on
OK, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy all the above! But it’s not long afterward that I feel empty. These don’t satisfy for very long.
What do we really long for? Hunger and thirst for? What do we do with that temptation to fill up with things that won’t last. When I really need what God has for me, I am tempted to turn to chocolate, to those hot chocolate desserts that have crusts on the outside and goo on the inside (What are those called? Chocolate lava cakes!) to sort of mask over that deep hunger for intimacy and comfort.
Jesus encourages us to hunger and thirst after His righteousness, His food. There is something, Someone, beyond me who will fulfill me with stuff that will satisfy.
I like to interpret “righteousness” as “the right connection with the right stuff.” And all the right stuff comes from God. There’s no other source for good stuff. He is the author and fount of all good stuff.
Love, joy and peace are what fulfill our longings! His faith, hope and love are what I really long for. Don’t you – really? I could have a bunch of shiny things in my garage but without love, we read in 1 Corinthians 13, it’s just junk banging around in a distractive way.
I’ve see the richest, most joyful people in Asia, Africa and Latin America living on less than $5 a day. In Asia, I recently visited a pastor’s home in the middle of an overcrowded city — three small rooms for a family of five in an overcrowded multistory building. The living room, which also served as a bedroom, was smaller than the smallest bedroom in my house. But 30 people jammed into that room to hear God’s Word and to praise and worship God! From the time I entered to the time I left, I saw and felt an overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit. They longed for God and were filled with the love and joy and peace of God. That’s the good stuff of God!
I’ve seen the poorest, most discontented people in more developed countries living on great amounts of tangible resources. I have walked into many huge homes with massive garages filled with toys only to hear how “poorly” they have it, how “badly” life treats them. Hmmmm. Maybe they are trying to be filled with the wrong stuff.
I remember as a kid, Thanksgiving meals always a Big Deal in our family. My aunts, uncles, and cousins would all come to our home for the biggest feast of the year. Turkey, potatoes, gravy, veggies, homemade rolls, salads, and most of all – pecan and pumpkin pies. The dishes would be passed around the table until we could eat no more. Then, out would come the pies! No problem making a bit more room for a slice of each.
Half of the 16 verses in the New Testament which include the Greek word chortazó (“to feed, fatten, fill, satisfy” and with animals: “to fodder, to gorge”) refer to the feeding of the 4,000 and 5,000. “They all ate and were satisfied (filled)” (Matthew 14:20). They all ate and were completely satisfied like at a holiday meal. Full baskets were taken up afterwards. The answer was “no, thank you” when asked if they wanted more.
With bread and fish, Jesus showed the crowds what He wants to show you and me today. He desires to fill us to the point where each of us can say, “I’m stuffed with the things of God!” “I can hardly take any more!” “Thank you!” “I am feeling satisfied as with the richest of foods!”
Jesus invites us to His table. Do you invite him to yours? Try staying at the table. He has more to serve you. The Word and Prayer are the two main courses. The Bread of Life/Living Water will fill you up.
He wants to stuff us…just like at a Thanksgiving meal! He has so much more for you and me. He wants to totally satisfy you as you hunger and thirst after Him. Taste and see!
In Psalm 23 we read, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” The only time sheep lie down in green pastures is when they are full, stuffed with food. They are stuffed and content with good green pasture all around them.
OK, here is my version of this verse: “There is a guarantee that if you really go after the stuff of God, you will be fattened up with His stuff like a fully fed cow.”
Jesus is knocking. It’s like Jesus is delivering pizza that will fill and last. He’s knocking at your door with a good, hot meal. Jesus said, “I stand at the door and knock” (Revelation 3:20).
Who would not open the door with hot pizza on the other side? I’ve even been so desperately hungry that I would stare out the window for the delivery to show up. When it arrived, I would throw open the door with a big welcome and tip. Hot pizza in the house!
Jesus continues in Revelation 3:20, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me” with real connection and full satisfaction!
Jesus knocks … with good stuff … for you and me. And more than that, He Himself is the Bread of Life. When we hunger, He will deliver.
“There is a guarantee that if you really go after the stuff of God, you will be fattened up with His stuff like a fully fed cow.”
Jerry Coleman is a Free Methodist elder and the Francis Asbury Society’s director of speakers. He previously served for 17 years as a Free Methodist missionary, the last 11 of which he was the area director for Europe.2